Question from Ally, Can a Landlord in California Charge Beyond the Security Deposit for Repairs?
Answer from AI:
In California, landlords have the right to use a tenant’s security deposit for four purposes:
- Unpaid rent
- Cleaning the rental unit when the tenant moves out, but only to make the unit as clean as it was when the tenant first moved in
- Repair of damages, other than normal wear and tear, caused by the tenant or the tenant’s guests
- If the lease or rental agreement allows it, for the cost of restoring or replacing furniture, furnishings, or other items of personal property (including keys), other than because of normal wear and tear.
California Civil Code Section 1950.5 outlines these rights and responsibilities.
What is the 21-Day Rule?
In California, after a tenant moves out, a landlord has 21 days to return the tenant’s deposit in full. If the landlord does not return the deposit within this time frame, he or she must mail or personally give to the tenant:
- A written letter explaining why he or she is keeping part or all of the deposit,
- An itemized list of each of the deductions,
- Any remaining refund of the tenant’s deposit, and
- Copies of receipts for the charges/deductions, unless repairs cost less than $126 or the tenant waived (gave up) his or her right to get the receipts. If the repairs cannot be finished within the 21-day period, the landlord can send the tenant a good faith estimate of the cost of repairs.
Can a Landlord Charge for Repairs Beyond the Security Deposit?
If the cost of repairs exceeds the security deposit, a landlord may sue the tenant in small claims court for the balance. However, the landlord must prove that the tenant caused the damage. If the damage was due to normal wear and tear, the landlord cannot charge the tenant.
What Can I Do If I Disagree with My Landlord’s Deductions?
If you disagree with your landlord’s deductions from your security deposit, you can take several steps:
- Try to negotiate with your landlord.
- Use the small claims court to recover your deposit.
- Use the local mediation program.
What About the Daily Rent Charge?
The landlord’s claim that he can charge you daily rent until repairs are completed seems questionable. Unless this was explicitly stated in your lease agreement, it may not be enforceable.
What Should I Do Next?
Given the complexity of your situation, it would be wise to consult with a legal professional. They can provide personalized advice based on your specific circumstances and help you understand your rights and obligations under California law.